[v] THIS IS ONE OF TWO REPORTS dealing with the events which led up to the establishment of a Planetary Quarantine Program in the United States, the development of this program, and its status as of the summer of 1973. The reports partially fulfill the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA's) requirement that the program be recorded fully so that research and development need not be repeated in the future. Both were prepared for the NASA Planetary Quarantine Office by the Science Communication Division of the George Washington University Medical Center, under Contract NSR 09-010-027. The other report, written by Morton Werber and entitled Objectives and Models of the Planetary Quarantine Program (NASA SP-344), will be published in the NASA general technical series.
Now that the Apollo Lunar Exploration Program has come to a halt, at least temporarily, and the exploration of the planets is proceeding on an established, although not accelerated, basis, it is time to take stock of where we stand today.
One of the most exciting possible discoveries in space exploration would be the detection of extraterrestrial life. The Planetary Quarantine Program, both national and international, is an outgrowth of great scientific concern that the search for such life might be compromised by terrestrial microbial contamination during early space exploration projects before effective life detection systems could be added to the space program.
The very term "planetary quarantine" shows how the program has expanded. The first discussions and efforts used the term "sterilization." Then sterilization, an absolute term, was gradually replaced by "probability of contamination." The consideration that in cases where microorganisms could not be killed they could possibly be confined led to the concept of "quarantine." When trajectory control [vi] came into use, flybys could be kept at sufficient distance from celestial bodies to avoid transfer of contaminants, while getting close enough to gain significant scientific information.
This report outlines United States effort in planetary quarantine, beginning with the expressions of alarm by biologists, then discussing how a program was put together and implemented, and finally indicating the academic, governmental, institutional, and industrial agencies and people involved. It ends with a brief summary of the accomplishments and present status of the Planetary Quarantine Program and will, we trust, serve as a partial explanation of how the planetary quarantine effort evolved and reached its present position.